BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On the morning after the Nov. 5 election, Myron Spanier’s Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club had its regular monthly meeting at Maggiano’s DTC. A full house of over 100 people were there to hear scheduled speakers Arapahoe County Commissioners Nancy Sharpe and Jeff Baker. Though they both tried to put the best light on it, it was clear that the two commissioners had hoped to be talking about the next steps to implement the policy contemplated by Arapahoe County ballot measure 1A, the plan to build a new county jail. But the ballot measure was voted down two to one, with 45,708 votes in favor and 91,619 against.
Sharpe was visibly shaken as she described how the 33-year old jail would have to continue to operate while a new plan is formulated to address the need for a new facility. She said, “I would have never signed onto something that I didn’t think we needed (ballot measure 1A). I don’t support eliminating TABOR (the Taxpayers Bill of Rights) and I don’t like raising taxes, but (now) we are going to have to cut services like necessary road improvements, because it costs us nearly $10 million a year to keep not just inmates, but jail employees safe. There are also countless hours of lost time by local police officers not able to perform their regular patrol duties because of the inefficiencies of the jail booking center they all must use. We will look at where we failed to communicate effectively. This is not an issue that is going to go away.”
Baker stepped in, saying “We heard the message loud and clear. The majority heard the need (for a new jail) but didn’t agree with how we wanted to fix the problem. The five of us (county commissioners) will sit down and try to figure out where we go from here.”
They explained that counties are an arm of the state and how almost everything done at the county level is based on mandates by the state and federal government. For example, they said that they are already hearing that the cost of full-day kindergarten is much higher than what was anticipated, and that the excess is going to be passed onto counties by cutting state funding of other county programs.
Turning to politics, Sharpe told fellow Republicans that if Baker and the other Republican Arapahoe County commissioner, Kathleen Conti, are not re-elected in 2020, she believes that human services workers in Arapahoe County will very soon vote to become unionized, as did human services workers in Adams County recently.
When several questions were asked of Sharpe and Baker that indicated that some voters rejected ballot measure 1A because they believed that the county could afford to build a new jail with its regular revenues and didn’t need a tax increase to accomplish it, Baker talked about the regular budget process. He said that departments across the county had requested funding for a total of 58 new employees in 2020 and many were well-justified, but that only eight were approved. He went on to explain that the eight positions were all mandated by SB 191 of 2019 that requires that “the custodian of a jail has to release a defendant within 4 hours after the defendant has posted bond and is physically present in the jail.” Sharpe further clarified that it is sometimes very difficult to meet that standard, owing to the overcrowded and undersized booking facility at the Arapahoe County Jail. For that reason, the county had to add eight additional employees to meet the four-hour release requirement, while rejecting every other request for additional staff for any reason.
Greg Lopez, former Parker mayor and former candidate for governor, who lost to Walker Stapleton in the 2018 Republican primary, announced that he is a candidate for Colorado governor in 2022. There is a Lopez for Governor 2022 Facebook page already up and running.
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